How Responsible is a Company to Actually Do Some Good?

It has become a common, and almost necessary, practice for popular companies to adopt social responsibility exercises. If a company does not give back to a certain area, they have the potential to lose business because of the current mindset that these huge corporations should be taking action.

I wasn’t even aware of the different initiatives that companies have created to give back. I was familiar with what Starbucks is doing to provide a better working environment for their employees as well as what TOMS has been doing for years to provide over 60 million pairs of shoes to children in need. But I had no idea that the Walt Disney Company has been fighting for years to reduce their carbon footprint by committing to the long-term environmental goals of zero waste, conserving water resources, and zero greenhouse emissions. Another company that really surprised me was Lego and their commitment to pledging $150 million over the next 15 years to combating climate change.

Image courtesy of LEGO.

A company that operates heavily online and through social media is Pura Vida bracelets. I have been familiar with this brand for a while and there are currently three of their bracelets tied around my ankle. Pura Vida began almost nine years ago when two friends went on a surfing trip in Costa Rica and met two local artisans.

And the rest is history.

Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman met Joaquin and Jorge and heard about their struggles with poverty, but were blown away by the artisans’ passion for creating these beautiful bracelets. They asked them to make 400 bracelets that they could take with them back to California and the partnership took off from there. The company now supports over 650 artisans in countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, and India.

Image courtesy of puravidabracelets.com

The company has been able to provide the artisans with a steady income and a good working environment which has helped build up the local economies. The company has a huge social media presence and actually got a huge jump start in their early years when celebrities were spotted wearing the bracelets and the images were posted online.

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Pura Vida has also become very popular for its charity bracelet lines. They have currently donated $1.7 million dollars to over 175 charity partners. On their website right now, there are 28 different charity bracelets that can be purchased, including For The Oceans, LGBT Pride Awareness, Lung Cancer Awareness, and Down Syndrome Awareness. 10% of net profits are donated quarterly to these foundations, according to their website.

Image courtesy of puravidabracelets.com.

“Movement symbolizing the simple things in life.”

Pura Vida Founder Paul Goodman

Pura Vida has 1.5 million followers on Instagram and honestly, it is so aesthetically pleasing to scroll through. Every few posts, they are promoting one of their charity bracelets, but they are still always working to maintain their formulaic Instagram presence. They are also well known for having brand representatives who promote new pieces on their own respective social media accounts. The company presents itself as a carefree, living-in-the-moment brand and don’t get me wrong, their social media accounts are stunning. But they graze right past the artisans creating the bracelets that keep the company running as well as the charities that they are doing so much for.

Image courtesy of Pura Vida’s Instagram.

Their support is amazing and the money they have donated to these organizations is great. But I believe that Pura Vida should mainly be praised for their strong support of the artisans they are employing and not the charities they are working with. They have helped build up these communities by providing work and support to families. Every year they partner with more artisans who are looking to share their work and the company keeps growing. Pura Vida was created because two men wanted to support two local artisans and they have continued to stick true to this mindset. I just think they could use a reminder on all of their social media about remembering to thank and show their support for these artisans keeping the company moving forward.

Image courtesy of Pura Vida’s Instagram.
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With Just One Retweet You Can Save a Life…Or Can You?

During a time of crisis, people want to do everything they can to help those affected. This used to involve going out into communities and offering their time and support. Now in the age of technology, social media has become a powerful tool to help out during a time of need. Facebook is used to help people check in during a natural disaster and let their friends and families know they are safe. Twitter provides up-to-date news and reporting about what is happening. It is also used as an incredible way to promote a giving campaign. Blood, clothing, and supplies drives are heavily retweeted and blasted out on Twitter during a disaster.

Facebook’s Safety Check feature, image courtesy of Facebook.

Social media makes things feel more real because you see photos of a fire ravaging a community or how gun-violence has affected a school in real time. Real people take to social media to share their condolences, concerns, and calls to action. These platforms become flooded with ways in which people can help, but some of these campaigns may not be as beneficial to the communities they are looking to help.

Actor Gerard Butler shared this photo during the Malibu fires on his social media.

The American Red Cross has done a very good job of utilizing social media to garner new blood donations, especially during times of need. They send out information regarding where people can give and social media takes it from there. I can’t remember being on social media during the recent California fires and not seeing a new tweet every few minutes in my feed pushing people to give blood. The American Red Cross also has a huge platform and they are able to use humor to persuade people to give back, as seen by one of their popular tweets below.

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

Social media campaigns can lead to some pretty incredible results, but they also have their faults. These campaigns provide people with a way to feel like they are helping when in reality not much is actually being done. It’s easy to tweet or post a photo calling people to action, but as soon as you hit share, that’s it. Social media provides a quick and fast alternative to actually giving your time or money to a nonprofit. Platforms become flooded with requests for help and it’s very easy to like or retweet a post and then moving on. On the other hand though, sometimes during a crisis, nonprofits get swarmed with donations from people hoping to make themselves feel better by giving. The American Red Cross is very familiar with this concept.

Image courtesy of the Daily Mail.

After a natural disaster, people send in everything from shampoo to dog food. Warehouse get stockpiled full of supplies because nonprofits don’t know how to handle everything. The American Red Cross has used their social media platforms to ask instead for monetary donations so that they can purchase what a community needs. Some nonprofits have even opted to post exactly what they need on a wishlist that donors can use to make sure they don’t get inundated with a surplus of things.

Social media has provided nonprofits with an incredible way to interact with the public and get their messages out. It’s also a powerful fundraising tool that can provide a lot of support during a crisis. When organizations utilize social media in effective ways, a lot can be accomplished.

Phony Kony and the Power of Social Media Campaigns

Think back to 2012, specifically March 5. Where were you? What were you doing? Do you remember this infamous day and why it went down in internet history? On this day, the “Kony 2012” video was released, creating one of the biggest social media campaigns to ever hit the internet.

Image courtesy of Invisible Children.

I was in seventh grade when this video was released and I remember being swept away by the Kony frenzy. I wanted to take action. I wanted to get involved. My friends and I were begging our parents to hand over their credit cards so we could buy “action-starter” kits and feel like we were doing something good for the children in the video. I look back on this time now and feel embarrassed that I was so easily persuaded by a video and campaign that didn’t help as much as it advertised. But, I am blown away by the power this video had. “Kony 2012” was one of the first hashtag-driven campaigns to take over the internet. Celebrities and politicians donated money and blasted out the video. They were drawn into the movement too so it felt real.

Image courtesy of Invisible Children.

“Kony 2012” was created by the nonprofit Invisible Children with the simple goal to inform people about Kony and what he has done to the people of Uganda. It explained the horrific things Kony has done and they asked people to purchase kits full of posters that were meant to plaster the streets. Invisible Children wanted to get Kony’s name out into the world. They wanted to share the story and relied on the internet to help them out.

This campaign was started by a nonprofit in America who had no real stake in anything that was happening in Uganda. The 30-minute long video is narrated by one of the founders Jason Russel, a white man who has never been directly affected by Kony. One of the major critiques of this entire campaign was that although Invisible Children made a strong plea for people to take action, nothing they were asking people to do would make a big change. The campaign was also criticized online for turning Kony into somewhat of a celebrity. The video detailed many of the horrific things he has done, but it also put him on a platform that many people were upset with.

Founder Jason Russel, image courtesy of the Washington Post.

The “Kony 2012” video currently has 102 million views. Some artists can only dream of reaching this many people. The number of people who saw this video in early 2012 is what put this project at the forefront of using social media as a tool to run a campaign. The video was shared by millions of people on Twitter and supported by celebrities including Rihanna, Lady Gaga and even Barack Obama. It took the internet by storm and although the campaign never accomplished the goals it set out, it has been used as a stepping stone for other nonprofits.

Image courtesy of Invisible Children.

Social media has made it much easier for simple campaigns to turn into movements. But can a movement that gets started online have real-world effects? In the case of Invisible Children: No. But for other campaigns including #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, social media propelled these causes into the spotlight. “Kony 2012” had its faults, but it left its mark on not only the nonprofit world but also the world of social media. The power of these platforms is revolutionizing the way we connect with the world and address important issues in new ways.

The Rise of Influencers

Image courtesy of Girls Leadership.

According to Merriam-Webster, having influence correlates to “corrupt interference with authority for personal gain.” Now I think this definition may be a little too harsh, but I do think that the current rise in power for social media influencers is startling. These young adults have made millions selling a lifestyle to audiences and Instagram has quickly become the most popular platform for these individuals to make a name for themselves.

In the public relations world alone, there are now entire teams being dedicated to securing these partnerships with influencers in order to get a specific product or brand name out to their massive followings. These teams have to constantly be tuned in with what is popular and who the current influencer on top is.

Let’s take a closer look into the lives of social media influencers and the tight grip they have on the internet.

Partnerships and Sponsorships

In a recent CBS This Morning interview, head-momager-in-charge, Kris Jenner, discussed another way her famous family has added to their fortunes–sponsored content. She explained that her daughters are making six figures a post, promoting everything from hair-growth gummies, detox teas, waist trainers and much more. She explained that they charge for every bit of sponsored content stating, “They have a fee for a post, or a fee for a story, a fee for Facebook … they have a fee schedule.” In order to make money, influencers have to push products out to their audiences. Some partnerships don’t always seem authentic and a huge priority for influencers is making sure what they are promoting aligns with their brand. Before influencer culture took the internet by storm, only companies had to worry about their brand and making sure every decision they made stayed true to their mission. Today, influencers are constantly being scrutinized online for every post they make. If their fans, or anyone else with access to their public accounts, doesn’t agree with the messages they are sharing, they will be called out. The internet has made it extremely easy to hold people accountable for their actions and influencers have to make sure that the products they are choosing won’t put them in a bad light.

Image courtesy of Kylie Jenner.
Public Apologies

It seems like almost every week an influencer is having to apologize for something they either said recently or something that is now coming to light from the past. Influencers are constantly under an intense microscope and they are sometimes unfairly ridiculed because they are in the public eye. Their lives are being played out for the world to see and in order to stay relevant, they have to post updates about what they are doing and who they are seeing. The problem with public apologies is that audiences are all too familiar with them and being able to remain authentic is becoming increasingly harder to do. Any time a mistake is made, an influencer must decide the best way to share with their audiences how apologetic they are and what they will do to make sure they don’t offend anyone in the future. This tactic has the potential to rub some people the wrong way because many times an apology puts the blame on anyone but the influencer. We’ve all seen a company come forward and apologize for a decision they made that upset their customers. Entire crisis management teams have to go into overtime making sure they can put out the fire before the company is majorly affected. But influencers are a sole entity and they typically don’t have the same support system that these large corporations do.

Safety

With every decision an influencer makes, the safety of their fans has to be a top priority. Recently, people are being called out for pushing detox teas onto unsuspecting young adults. Actress Jameela Jamil has taken it upon herself to show the realities of some of the products being advertised by influencers and celebrities. In a series of parody videos posted to her Instagram, Jamil shows the harsh side effects of the weight loss teas being promoted by hundreds of influencers.

Image courtesy of Jameela Jamil.

Jamil’s voice has become incredibly strong in the fight to protect young fans from purchasing products that are not safe. She has called out influencers on social media and continues to add comments under new posts advertising these products. Most notably, she has taken it upon herself to attack members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan for their neverending weight-loss posts. Her fight to stop sponsorships that promote an unhealthy weight and body image for young girls has caught the attention of a lot of people. Jamil isn’t the only celebrity using their power to demand honesty from influencers regarding the products they are being paid to endorse.

Image courtesy of Buzzfeed.

The reach that influencers have is astounding. With just one click, they can send messages out to millions of people. It seems like almost every day, someone new is taking Instagram by storm. It takes a lot of work to remain relevant and popular in the world of social media, but these influencers have found a way to capitalize on sharing their daily lives with the world. It is up to audiences to remember that the world of social media can very often portray a fantasy and we must continue to understand that people in power must be held responsible for all of the content they share with the world.

Not So Strange Addiction

Image courtesy of Recovery Direct.

Do you remember that show on TLC called “My Strange Addiction” where a man married his car and another woman ate her husband’s ashes? I remember watching that show when I was younger and thinking, “This is crazy? How could someone do this?” That show capitalized on people with wild addictions and captivated audiences, yet if this show came back in 2019, no one would be too fazed by the addiction plaguing the world today–social media.

We spend hours and hours on our phones every day, so much time is spent hovering over those tiny screens that it’s actually changing our spines. The average person spends about three to four hours a day bent over their phone, which is equivalent to that of an 8-year-old sitting on your neck. Recently, I read an article by the Guardian analyzing the recent discussion about classifying internet addiction as an actual disease. The group pushing for this classification want to combat the way mental health is currently being kicked to the sidelines due to social media’s influence.

Image courtesy of Technology Salon.

Author Roisin Kiberd opens up in her article about her diagnosis by psychiatrists to avoid social media in 2016. But she actually credits the internet to keeping her sane during a time in our country that was hard for a lot of people. I actually took a completely opposite outlook as Kiberd during this time. I found my heartbeat quicken whenever I logged onto Twitter during the intense election period because I was scared about what I might see next. I opted to limit the time I spent scrolling through platforms that once used to be my escape. And I wasn’t alone. According to a study done at Arizona State University in January and February of 2017, “25% of [students] were affected in a way that might lead to diagnosable post-traumatic stress disorder and had “clinically significant” levels of stress.” This statistic is staggering, but not surprising. We cling to social media to help us stay calm during times of crises or panic and this was the first time in political history that social media was actually used as a campaign strategy. The stress during this time turned people to their phones and companies took notice.

It’s a scary notion to think in this “like and dislike” mode that Kiberd discusses, but it’s the way that our consumer culture is currently operating. Products, people or new trends that get us talking are the main goals for brands operating strategically on the internet. Social media addiction is good for business. Companies know how much time people are spending on their phones and they also know what we’re looking at. These companies rely on the notion that we are addicted to scrolling, which is undoubtedly true. In order to be successful in this digital age, a company’s presence on social media has to be strong. But in the world of journalism and communication, we are also constantly being told our presence on social media should be strong. This mindset of needing to brand ourselves on social media has only added to the addiction.

Image courtesy of Playground Professionals.

I love social media, don’t get me wrong. I love how quickly things happen and how powerful a tool it can be. But I don’t like how it makes me feel. I am so thankful that I did not grow up during a time when it was normal for someone in elementary school to have an Instagram. Being addicted to social media is a scary concept, but I believe one of the best ways to address this issue is to have more open ways of discussing mental health and its association with the internet.

A new wave of openness is taking social media by storm, with celebrities and influencers using their platforms to tell audiences it’s okay to be vulnerable and honest with the negative sides of social media. We live in a digital age, but that doesn’t mean we have to completely abandon the notion that it’s okay to not be okay with how social media affects you. I don’t know if classifying social media addiction as an actual disease would stop it from affecting millions of people, but it might open up a necessary conversation regarding how we can make these platforms a better place.

Let’s Get Social–Welcome to my blog

Image courtesy of Ted.com.

How many times have you scrolled through one of your social media accounts today? I’ll admit that before writing this post, I was on Twitter. Social media has become an integrated part of everyday life for most and an addiction for some. It’s how people get their news, stay on top of current celebrity drama and connect with their families and friends. But it’s also how companies, and people, sell their products and maintain their brands. In order to stay relevant and profitable, companies have had to utilize different platforms and attempt to shape and mold themselves to the ever-changing world of social media. Some companies have found a voice that works for them–take Wendy’s bashing their fellow fast-food chain competitors on Twitter–which has allowed them to pull ahead in the unspoken, yet highly-competitive world of staying relevant on social media. These days, social media’s impact has become a lot more powerful. Movements are being started, industries are being called out and people are demanding a change–all with one Instagram post or in 280 words or less.

Over the next few weeks, I want to discuss the power of social media. Whether that’s through political campaigns, how people have made millions selling a “lifestyle”, targeted advertising, or a nonprofits’ ability to make some noise utilizing social media. What’s trending on Twitter says a lot about what people are currently talking or care about and I am interested in looking at all of the different ways these media platforms play a part in our lives. I’ll be the first to admit that I love scrolling through endless Instagram photos and retweeting silly videos on Twitter, but recently I have started to notice how all this time on social media makes me feel, especially with the new screen time hours my lovely iPhone shares with me every day. I’m interested in taking a look at some of the negative sides of social media, but also talking about all of the incredible, and very entertaining, content that is being released. I’m very excited to dig deeper into social media’s power on this blog and hopefully learn a thing or two along the way.